Knowing Your Characters – Why I Do it and so Should You

What do I mean,  “Knowing Your Characters?”

Have you ever watched a movie and cried when a character gave a long, emotional speech, or when two characters finally realize they are meant for each other and hug and kiss? Knowing your characters will give your readers these feelings, too.

Have you ever read a book and felt a twinge of emotion when something happened to a character you’ve spent the last who-knows-how-long following and rooting for? Maybe you’ve been brought to tears or fits of laughter at a song about a girl or guy or both? (Austin, by Blake Shelton anyone?)

This is why I love my characters. The ability to write something so dynamic it hits home with a reader in a usually unexpected way. I will confess: most of the time, as a writer, we don’t know when those moments are going to happen. Unless, of course, you’re Nicholas Sparks. The reason, I believe, is because as a writer and creator of these characters they do it to us every single page.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I Take Time to Know My Characters

I really get into my characters, and I know everything about them. Each and every person that makes an appearance in my novels or scripts is a real someone to me. They come from somewhere, have parents and know loss, and have struggles and strife. They got bullied in high school or went to the prom alone. Each and every one of them has a story to tell that isn’t revealed in my pages.

Knowing Your Characters
Knowing your characters – which ones will be strong, who will break down and who will surprise us all?

If my characters were real people and you met them on the street, they would be able to tell you everything about themselves as far back as they can remember. I have the documents to prove it. Knowing your characters will help you accomplish the same.

I do character sheets on each one. Even that little clerk you only see for two pages, or the empty voice on the other end of a single phone call. They all came from somewhere and are all going somewhere after you finish reading their bit.

You Should Take the Time, Too

I wish all writers would care so much about character development. Most of us care that much about the protagonist, the antagonist and if we are lucky the secondary characters. Just like a cup of coffee though, if every drop isn’t the same, we will stop drinking.

I like to make all my characters real people, not based on real people. You could even go so far as to call it “playing God” because I am making people. But the writing is worth it. I can see every little aspect of their world. I know what they are thinking and feeling and showing and hiding.

Not only do I know what Richard the story hero is thinking while battling the bad guys, but I also know what Debbie the drive-through operator is doing with that hangnail while she takes the order of the car next in line.

Small Details Help

Every little thing helps. Believe me there. Even if you never say a word, knowing your characters, seeing them, believing they are real will show in your writing. It will come across in your actions and more importantly in the dialogue. It is worth it.

Take the time to get to know your characters. Commit to them and they will commit to you. It’s the best win-win you will ever get in the literary world.

A Bonus for You!

If you sign up for the newsletter you will get instant access to the secret downloads page. There, you will find a character interview sheet. This 140 question sheet will help you get to know each and every one of your characters. It is the questionnaire I use for all of my created people. I am sure you will love it!

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